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Study: Cows Find MT Biodiesel By-Products Yummy

March 26, 2008

Billings, MT – Montana farmers considering biofuel crop production are getting encouragement. According to the new "Biodiesel Benefits" report, the leftovers from oil extraction are good, high-protein cattle feed. In addition, the report says, processing oilseed crops right on the small-scale farm where they're grown could produce enough fuel for that operation and feed animals on the property or at nearby ranches.

Jeanne Charter ranches near Shepherd. She believes that's the kind of self-sufficiency ranchers need to stay competitive.

"Our region's agriculture has been shaped to date by cheap oil. Our farms and ranches and communities will look very different in the future."

Right now, Charter says, most biofuel production takes place at large processing plants. Although the byproducts can be fed to cattle on small ranches, this feed must be transported long distances back to producers, and so must the biofuel.

North Dakota State University Animal Science professor Greg Lardy wrote the study. He says the amount of biofuel cropland in the Northern Great Plains is a good match with the number of cattle there. Additionally, he found that oilseed crop byproducts can contain more protein than corn leftovers. Corn is the primary crop used for biofuels now.

"Oilseed meals make excellent protein supplements where cattle are grazing dormant pasture in the fall or winter, or perhaps in situations where cattle need an additional protein supplement."

Lardy says the biofuel crops that thrive in Montana are safflower, sunflower, soybean, Camelina, canola and mustard.

The report is available online at

Deborah Smith/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - MT